SANTOS, Brazil (AP) Thousands of mourners, including high school students and Supreme Court justices, began eulogizing Pele’s body Monday at the century-old stadium where he made his hometown team one of Brazil’s best.
The great soccer player has passed away On Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was the only player to win the World Cup three times, and he was 82 years old.
Pele’s coffin, draped in the flags of Brazil and Santos Football Club, was placed in the midfield area of Villa Belmero, the stadium outside São Paulo that was his home for most of his career. A Catholic Mass will be celebrated there on Tuesday morning before he is buried in a nearby cemetery. New Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva He will come to Vila Belmiro shortly before Pele’s coffin is removed from the field.
The 16,000-seat storied stadium was surrounded by mourners, and covered in Pelé-style decorations. Fans who walked out of the stadium said they had waited three hours in line, standing in the blazing sun.
Forty-five years after Pele played his last game, he remains an essential part of Brazil’s national story.
Giovanna Sarmiento, 17, came with her father, who was wearing a Brazil jersey bearing Pele’s name.
“I’m not a Santos fan, and neither is my dad. But this guy invented the Brazilian national team. He made Santos stronger, he made it big, so how can you not respect him? He’s one of the greatest people ever, we needed to honor him,” she said.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Pele was perhaps the most famous athlete in the world. He met presidents and queens, and in Nigeria a civil war was suspended to watch him play. Many Brazilians credit him with putting the country on the world stage.
Caio Zalc, 35, an engineer, also wore a Brazil jersey as he waited in line. Pele is the most important Brazilian of all time. He made football important to Brazil and he made Brazil important to the world.
Rows of Pele’s number 10 shirts are placed behind a goal, waving in the summer winds of the city. A section of the stands was filled with bouquets of flowers laid out by mourners and sent by clubs and star players – among them Neymar and Ronaldo – from all over the world as loudspeakers were playing a song called “Eu sou Pelé” (“I am Pele”) which the Brazilian himself had recorded.
I’ve never seen him play, but the love for Pele is a tradition passed from father to son at Santos, said Claudio Carranza, a 32-year-old salesman. I’ve learned his history, I’ve seen his goals, I see how important Santos FC is because it’s important. “Santos have children who support other teams. But that’s just because they didn’t see Pele in action. If they did, they would feel this gratitude that I feel now.”
Santos said more than 1,100 journalists from 23 countries attended the funeral. The chiefs and friends of Pele present at the funeral spoke.
Among them was Pele’s best friend, Manuel Maria, also a former Santos player. “If I had all the wealth in the world, I would never be able to repay what this man did for me and my family. He was a great man as he was as a player. The best of all. His legacy will live on after all of us. It can be seen in this long line with people of all ages.” here “.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino told reporters that every country should name a stadium after Pele.
“I am here with so much emotion and sadness, but also with a smile because he gave us so many smiles,” said Infantino. “As FIFA, we will salute the ‘King’ and ask the whole world to observe a minute’s silence.”
Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes was another fan and friend of the two.
“It’s a very sad moment, but now we see the true meaning of this legendary player for our country,” Mendes told reporters. My desk has shirts signed by Pele, a picture of him as a goalkeeper, signed by him too. DVDs, photos and a whole lot of it.”
Mendes also said that Pele was a humble man despite his global fame, and that he deserves all the tributes.
The casket will be delivered through the streets of Santos before his burial on Tuesday.
Pele has been treated for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he was hospitalized said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of cancer.
The soccer superstar led Brazil to World Cup wins in 1958, 1962 and 1970, and remains one of the team’s all-time leading scorers with 77 goals. Neymar equaled Pele’s record during the World Cup in Qatar this year.
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